Out-of-equilibrium systems, emergence, and life

DIEP and Origins Workshop | June 2021 - February 2022 | @ Lorentz Center | online and in person |Leiden, Netherlands

Organizers: Sijbren Otto, Daniela Kraft, Peter Bolhuis, Wilhelm Huck, Patrick Onck


An invitation to out-of-equilibrium systems

The striking fact about many, and likely all, living systems is that they display robust, ordered and anticipatory (‘smart’) behaviour in spite of inherent stochasticity. When transitioning to the living state, material systems do not leave randomness behind, which makes their behaviour all the more difficult to understand, and difficult to emulate in artificial systems and models. It is currently unknown how to characterize, and to create or model, the energy-driven pathways out of the random and into the ordered state, or how to access such non-equilibrium states through energy-driven disorder-order transitions. This means that our understanding of out-of-equilibrium systems, emergence, and life, is still highly incomplete. 


Increasing the understanding would be a scientific accomplishment in itself, with relevance across a huge domain of research. Deepened understanding may also indicate new ways to implement desirable life-like properties in artificial systems. One of the challenges is the sheer variety of known out-of-equilibrium and emergent systems, which range from molecular to planetary length scales. Yet, even across these disparate scales, similar questions can be identified. For example, how does a modification in the degrees of freedom in the external environment, such as energy inputs, or within the system, such as the composition of building blocks, provides the freedom needed for new properties to emerge, or, how do the degrees of freedom affect the overall properties, and can the emergence of such properties be controlled.

DIEP and the Origins Center have, over the past few months, gathered a number of Netherlands-based scientists working on out-of-equilibrium systems who met virtually a few times for exchanging and discussing investigative approaches to their systems or phenomena of interest, In these meetings, it was concluded that there is a case to be made for a more intensive and coordinated effort in finding, or designing, approaches that would be productive across the full range of scales on which out-of-equilibrium systems, emergence, and life occur.

This workshop consists of a series of meetings:

  1. ​Online, Monday 28 June 2021, 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM - pause - 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

  2. Online, Tuesday 14 September 2021, 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM - pause - 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

  3. Online, Tuesday 9 November 2021, 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM - pause - 3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

  4. Leiden, at Lorentz Center premises, Monday 14 February 2022, 1:00 PM - 5:30 PM

More details about the scientific programme will be available soon.



Sijbren Otto

(University of Groningen)


Daniela Kraft

(University of Leiden)


Peter Bolhuis

(University of Amsterdam)


Wilhelm Huck

(Radboud University Nijmegen)


Patrick Onck

(University of Groningen)